Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 18   No. 7

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Eliyahu Zev ben R' Yerachmiel Moshe z"l
by his family
in honour of his 22nd Yohrzeit
on the 14th Kislev

Parshas Vayeitzei

Ya'akov and the Sheep
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Echoing Rashi, Rabeinu Bachye describes how Ya'akov organized the sticks at the back of the drinking-troughs in such a way that the sheep became pregnant with lambs that resembled the spotted and speckled sticks that he had placed there. He then adds that the strong sheep that he took for himself and the weak sheep that he arranged for Lavan to receive, refers to the two times a year that small animals (whose period of pregnancy lasts five months) give birth, and that Y'akov cleverly manipulated that too. It was during the first period of mating in Nisan, he explains, that Ya'akov placed the sticks. But when the latter period of mating arrived in Tishri, Ya'akov simply left the sheep to mate naturally, without placing sticks.


Nor should one for one moment assume that Ya'akov's strategy was meant to cheat Lavan out of what was rightfully his. Indeed, what he did was to prevent Lavan from cheating him, much in the same way as his dealings with Eisav earlier. As a matter of fact, the Torah indicates this when it explains how Lavan constantly changed the conditions - even when the sheep were already pregnant (a move that was blatantly dishonest).

Moreover, the idea of placing the sticks was not even his own. It was presented to him by an angel in the form of a dream (see Chapter 31, Pasuk 12), as Ya'akov himself told Rachel and Le'ah later in the Parshah. The vision that Ya'akov saw in his dream convinced him that G-d was about to perform a miracle on his behalf. And yes, it was a miracle. Most people can place as many peeled (spotted and speckled) sticks as they like in the drinking-troughs during the mating-season. They are unlikely to find a single spotted or speckled lamb among the new-born lambs that year. What Ya'akov did to increase his flocks was not in any way a natural phenomenon. He did it because the angel hinted to him that this is what he should do, and that, if he complied, the G-d of his father was with him, and would assist him.


To be sure, R. Bachye explains, G-d could easily have assisted him without his participation. However, it is essential that the person who is experiencing the miracle plays some role, however minor, in the miracle. And there are two reasons for this. The first, he says, is to hide the miracle, which in turn, is in order to prevent an Ayin ha'Ra from taking effect. And he cites a number of examples from T'nach. He cites the story of Elisha who in his mission to bring to life the son of the Shunamis, initially sent his servant Gechazi as his Shali'ach, with instructions not to engage anyone in conversation along the way, and to shut the door before placing his staff on the dead child. Gechazi ignored his master's instruction, however. He told people that he met along the way what he was about to do, and an Ayin ha'Ra put paid with Elisha's initial plan. In similar fashion, Eliyahu ha'Navi instructed the widow of the Navi Ovadyah to close the door, before pouring her single jar of oil into the collection of receptacles that she had borrowed from all her neighbours.

Another example is that of the tribe of Menashe, who had increased so rapidly that when they entered Eretz Yisrael, they found that their allotted territory was too small for their needs. So Yehoshua instructed them to go and capture the forest-land, which Chazal explain to mean that they should hide in the forests so as not to attract an Ayin ha'Ra - and this in spite of Ya'akov's blessing that Yosef is "above the eye" (not subject to the Ayin ha'Ra!).

And what better proof do we have of the power of Ayin ha'Ra than Matan Torah, where, because the Torah was given in a public display, Ayin ha'Ra set in, causing the breaking of the Luchos (which explains why the second Luchos were handed to Moshe discreetly).

So too, did Ya'akov Avinu arrange the sticks in the troughs to hide the miracle from the eyes of Lavan and his men, so that the Divine B'rachah should not be offset by an Ayin ha'Ra.


And the second reason he explains, is so that the miracle should place an ambush behind the city of Ay, which he was about to conquer. Now, as is well-known, all the battles that comprised the conquest of Cana'an took the form of miracles, yet G-d instructed Yehoshua to lay an ambush, so that the miracle should come about as result of a natural act.

The author is clearly referring to the principle of the Ramban, who explains in Parshas No'ach that in spite of the miraculous phenomenon of No'ach and his family's salvation before the mighty waters of the Flood, it was necessary for him to construct the boat (which did little to detract from the miracle) in order to 'minimize the miracle and to maximize the trial'. Indeed, R. Bachye himself elaborates there (7:15) more than he does here.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rivo)

Changing Directions

"And you shall spread westwards and eastwards, northwards and southwards" (28:14).

The question is why G-d changed the order that He Himself used with regard to Avraham Avinu, to whom He said in Lech-L'cha 13:14 "Lift up your eyes and see from the place where you are northwards, southwards, eastwards and westwards"?

The answer, the Riva explains, is based on the direction in which one is traveling. Assuming that it is natural to begin with the direction from which one came, he explains that Avraham was traveling from north to south (as Rashi stresses a number of times), G-d began with the north; whereas Ya'akov was making his way from Eretz Yisrael in the west, to Charan in the east. So G-d first mentioned the west, which was his point of departure, and then the east, his destination.


A Father's Command

"And he raised his voice and he wept" (29:11).

Rashi citing a Medrash, explains that Ya'akov wept because, unlike Eliezer before him, he had come empty handed. And he describes how Eisav had sent Elifaz his son to murder Ya'akov. And how upon catching up with him, in reply to his question what he should do about his father's command, Ya'akov advised him to take all his possessions, because a poor man is considered like dead. Then he truthfully could tell his father that he had killed him.


Why did Elifaz (who was a righteous man) need an excuse to explain why he had not killed Ya'akov, asks the Riva? Have Chazal not said that it is forbidden to obey one's father if it means committing a sin?

And he explains that Elifaz was nevertheless looking for a way to fulfill his father's command, so as not to sin against him. And Ya'akov supplied him with the means to achieve that.

It seems to me however that Elifaz may well have been concerned about lying to his father, and that what he was therefore searching for was how to report back to his father without lying.

The fact that Ya'akov Avinu was willing to give away everything that he owned in order to save Elifaz from lying to his father (even though he was under no obligation to do so) teaches us the extent of his Midas ha'Emes, which was of course, his Midah.


Time Flies

"And they were in his eyes like a few days, in his love for her" (29:20).

Surely the opposite is true, asks the Riva? When one wants something badly and has to wait for it, time seems to drag by? What the Pasuk means, he explains, is that, so deep was his love for Rachel, that if Lavan had offered him Rachel for a hundred years work, he would gladly have accepted. So he considered seven years a bargain.

Alternatively, what it means is that now that the seven years had come to an end, in his love for Rachel, it didn't seem a long time at all.

And he prefers this second explanation - because it is written after informing us that Ya'akov worked for Rachel for seven years (according to the first explanation, it should have preceded it).


A Case of Mistaken Identity

"And it was in the morning, and behold it was Le'ah!" (29:25).

Rashi explains that Ya'akov handed Rachel signs to ascertain that she really was Rachel. As Chazal explain, those signs were Midah, Chalah and Hadlakas ha'Ner (the three Mitzvos of a woman).

The question arises, asks Rabeinu Tam, that if Ya'akov thought that he was marrying Rachel, and then it turned out to be Le'ah, on what basis was the Kidushin of Le'ah valid? Why was it not a case of an erroneous Kidushin, which is automatically null and void?

In answer to the question, R. Elyakim explains that, knowing Lavan, Ya'akov suspected that, is spite of his (Ya'akov's) precautions, he would somehow trick him and land him with Le'ah instead of Rachel. Consequently, he decided that, in order not to render his first contact with a woman an immoral one, if that was indeed the case. he would accept that, and he would be married to Le'ah.

This goes well with the Ramban, who attributes Ya'akov's willingness to wait seven years before marrying Rachel to the fact that she was only five years old at the time, and Ya'akov Avinu, who is described as Kadosh, would not countenance having relations with a woman who was too young to bear children. So he opted to wait until she was twelve and fit to have children before actually marrying her.


Why Ya'akov Didn't Know


This goes to show, the Riva explains, Ya'kov's high level of Tz'niy'us, in that he talked very little with his new wife. If he had, he would surely have known that he was talking to Le'ah and not Rachel.

I have also heard it said that Rachel and Le'ah, like Ya'akov and Eisav, had similar voices, and that it was therefore hard to distinguish between the two.


Three Kids, Two Hands!

"This time my husband will accompany me" (29:34).

To be sure he will, the Riva explains. Up until now, he points out, Leah had two sons, so she was able to carry one son with one arm, and the other son, with the other. But how would she possibly be able to cope with three sons?

That is why she commented confidently that Ya'akov would be bound to lend a hand in looking after them from now on.


The Smallest Tribe

"Therefore (al-kein) he called his name Levi" (Ibid.).

Rashi explains that whenever the Torah uses the expression "al-kein", that tribe was large in number, except for Levi. Levi was different, he says, because the Aron killed many of them.

But if one examines the size of the tribes in Parshas Bamidbar, one will discover that already there Levi was by far the smallest tribe, even though they had only just been appointed to serve in the Ohel Mo'ed (so the Aron could not possibly have been responsible for their deaths)

And he answers with the well-known explanation that seeing as the population explosion of Yisrael in Egypt was the result of Par'oh's statement "pen yirbeh" (to enslave them 'Lest they increase'), to which G-d's response was 'kein yirbeh; (so they shall increase) - the more Par'oh tried to cut down their numbers, the more they increased - proportionately.

Consequently, the tribe of Levi, who were exempt from working, did not miraculously increase, and their numbers remained proportionately small.

The question remains however - now that we ascribe Levi's small size to the fact that they did not have to work in Egypt, what forces Rashi to mention the fact that the Aron killed them?

* * *


"And G-d saw that Leah was hated (vayar Hashem ki senu'ah ), so he opened her womb" (29:31).

The last letters of the words "vayar Hashem ki senu'ah" spell Hashem's Name 'Eh'keh', the Ba'al ha'Turim observes. This is to counter Ya'akov's suspicion that , just as Le'ah made herself Hefker vis-?-vis himself, so too did she make herself Hefker vis-?-vis other men. So G-d affixed His Name to her, as a sign that she had not sinned.

See Rashi, Parshas Pinchas 26:5).


"Here is my hand-maid, Bilhah, come to her " (30:3).

Rachel did not refer to Biklhah as her slave (as Sarah did when she offered Avraham, Hagar).

This is because Bilhah was in fact, a daughter of Lavan (her father) from a concubine.


" and he found Duda'im, which he brought to Le'ah his mother" (30:14).

The Gematriyah of "Duda'im", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is equivalent to that of 'ke'Adam', which is how these flowers were shaped according to the Ramban quoting the I'bn Ezra. Sme commentaries add that they were a Segulah for childbirth.


The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the only 'Samech' to be found among the names of Ya'akov's children is the name of Yosef, whilst the only 'Ayin' is in the name of Shimon.

And he explains that the one hints at the fact that Yosef was the Satan of Eisav (see Rashi, 30:25),

whilst the other hints at Salu the adulterer (from the tribe of Shimon), and he cites the Pasuk in, Iyov (24:15) " the eye of the adulterer awaits nightfall (ve'Ayin no'ef shomroh neshef)".


" And Le'ah said 'for I bore him three sons' " (29:34).

This is what Le'ah said to explain why she called her third son Levi. And when Zevulun was born, she repeated the same phrase ('for I bore him six sons') to explain why she called him by that name. Knowing that Ya'akov was destined to have twelve sons, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains that she made this statement after the birth of Levi as if to state that she had provided Ya'akov with her portion of sons, and she repeated it after the birth of Zevulun, as if to say that she had now given him two portions.


" the late-bearing ones (ho'atufim, that were naturally weak) went to Lavan" (30:42).

The same word appears in Eichah (2:19) "who are dying (ho'atufim) from hunger ".

Ya'akov gave Lavan the weak animals that were destined to die from hunger.

Alternatively, it was because Ya'akov behaved with Lavan in a way that smacked of dishonesty, that his children were subsequently left to die of hunger.


" ,,, and he called the name of that place Machanayim" (31:3).

The letters of "Machanayim" make up the first letters of the words 'Me'osom Chayalim Natal Ya'akov Mal'ochim'. From those hosts Ya'akov took angels - to send to Eisav, as the opening Rashi in Parshas Vayishlach teaches us.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 463:
To Cross-Examine the Witnesses (cont.)

Likewise the Chachamim said that if the Dayan sees, (even in issues regarding admissions and loans) that the proceedings are not going straight, then he needs to initiate D'rishah va'Chakirah. If the witnesses subsequently contradict each other, their testimony is disqualified; but if a discrepancy occurs during the Bedikos, their testimony stands. How is that? If one of the witnesses testifies that Reuven borrowed from Shimon in Nisan, and Shimon claims that the loan took place in Iyar, or if the one says that it took place in Yerushalayim, whilst the other one says in Lud, and the same will apply if the first witness claims that Reuven borrowed a barrel of wine, and the second says that it was a barrel of oil - this is considered D'rishah and Chakirah, and the testimony is negated. If however, the one testifies that he lent him a black Manah, whilst the other claims that it was a white Manah, the one the same value as the other; or if one argues that it took place on the top floor whilst his friend maintains that it took place in the bottom floor - that is considered Bedikos and their testimony remains intact and all other details are to be found in Sanhedrin and in the Rambam (Hilchos Eidus, Perek 3).

This Mitzvah applies with regard to money issues everywhere and at all times, to men, since they are the ones who are charged to carry out justice, but not to women. As far as Dinei Nefachos, Malki'os are concerned, they apply in Eretz Yisrael, but only when the Sanhedrin is sitting in its place (as the author explained in Parshas Mishpatim). Someone who contravened the Mitzvah and fails to cross-examine the witnesses properly has transgressed this Asei; his punishment will be severe, since it leads to sentencing innocent people to death and to causing people unlawful monetary losses. He is a Rasha and causes others to sin by feeding them money that is not their's. On the other hand, Chazal have said about someone who judges truthfully and with integrity, that he earns himself great merit, even going so far as to consider him a partner with G-d in the Creation, seeing as it upholds the world and its inhabitants.

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